London - Thousands of people with cancer could be given better treatments after British scientists found a gene that makes tumours grow.
The “needle in a haystack” find offers hope to at least one in 100 patients – or 3 000 a year.
Unusually, it doesn’t only apply to one type of cancer. The rogue DNA can fuel almost all forms of the disease, which kills more than 150 000 Britons every year.
Within a few years, patients could be tested for the gene and given drugs to slow cancer.
Professor Paul Workman, of London’s Institute of Cancer Research, said: “This discovery will help us target these drugs to a new group of patients and could have a dramatic effect on the life of many cancer sufferers.”
The researchers, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, analysed the DNA of more than 7 500 cancer patients.
They found a gene called CUX1 in many patients, including those with breast cancer and a form of leukaemia that is currently very hard to treat, according to the study in journal Nature Genetics.
The gene was found to fuel the growth of one in 100 tumours.
Usually, it takes many years for a genetic breakthrough to lead to a treatment. However, drugs that target the faulty CUX1 gene are already in use, meaning patients could benefit within a few years.
Lead author David Adams said it was like finding a “needle in a haystack” because the gene affects a few patients across all cancer types, rather than affecting all those with one form of cancer. - Daily Mail